State wildlife officials using a helicopter to count sheep in a rugged area of remote Utah last week were surprised to discover a mysterious metal monolith sitting in the middle of nowhere.
The find prompted immediate comparisons to the enigmatic alien monoliths of the classic Arthur C. Clarke science fiction novel and Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey, although those monoliths were black, and this one appears to be made from stainless steel. Also unlike the 2001 monoliths, this one has displayed no inclination to advance human evolution, turn people into glowing space babies, or ignite additional stars in our solar system. Then again, 2020 isn’t over yet.
Bret Hutchings, the pilot of the helicopter, recalled one of his passengers on the sheep-counting mission suddenly exclaiming, “Whoa, whoa, turn around, turn around! There’s this thing back there, we’ve got to go look at it!”
The Utah Department of Public Safety and Wildlife Resources team soon found themselves looking at a ten-foot vertical slab of steel, incongruously parked amid the huge red rocks that fill the area:
— Andrew Adams (@AndrewAdamsKSL) November 21, 2020
“That’s been about the strangest thing that I’ve come across out there in all my years of flying,” Hutchings remarked.
“We were, like, thinking is this something NASA stuck up there or something. Are they bouncing satellites off it or something?” he said.
Hutchings went on to speculate that the monolith was the work of “some New Wave artist or something, or you know, someone that was a big 2001: A Space Odyssey fan.” The UK Guardian rose to his challenge and tried to figure out which artist it might be:
The work was compared to those of many minimalist sculptors, including artist John McCracken, who died in 2011. His gallerist, David Zwirner, told the Guardian the mystery object was not one of his works.
“While this is not a work by the late American artist John McCracken, we suspect it is a work by a fellow artist paying homage to McCracken,” a David Zwirner spokesperson said.
The Utah Department of Public Safety (DPS) swiftly notified all minimalist sculptors, pranksters, covert NASA agents, and hyper-evolved extraterrestrial litterbugs that “it is illegal to install structures or art without authorization on federally managed public lands, no matter what planet you’re from.”
DPS refrained from disclosing the location of the monolith to discourage tourists from seeking it out, but the Guardian said Reddit users quickly deduced its whereabouts. They also pored over images of the find and determined it was probably installed with a rock saw, and it is apparently held together with screws. The monoliths in 2001 appeared wherever they wanted, and according to eyewitnesses, they were full of stars, not screws.